The Mermaid Scared The Fishes Away

Julie Atlas Muz is the mermaid, but the lucky fishes in the Coral Room’s aquarium do not seem to appreciate their good fortune. Dressed in various, multicolored, pisciform outfits and fetching pince-nez, she prances and cavorts amid the fleeing, horizontally-challenged denizens of the bar’s back wall, while the bands go through the motions in the far end corner.

The room is not huge, reminiscent of a smaller, cleaner Don Hill’s (and one filled with customers…) but it is all done in an unfortunate dull gray finish of plastic fake concrete and concrete dead reef that’s as hard on the eyes as it is on the ears. There is a real stage, but it has an odd cut-out design at stage left, that leaves the bass players permanently on the brink. Portholes to the VIP/band room give it a look more reminiscent of a blockhaus along the Atlantic Wall than of any cruise ship I’ve seen.

Stage lighting is an afterthought, consisting mostly of flashing disco lights pressed into service without proper basic training. The first band, Oxford Collapse, a rock trio from Brooklyn, complained about all the twitching flashes and colors and were rewarded with three static spots illuminating respectively the wall, the drummer, and the wall. Not an auspicious start, and the difficult sound situation did not help. On top of it, the tendency their songs have to just stop instead of finishing properly is rather disconcerting; it’s a trick that can be used to great effect –Beatles anyone?– but it mustn’t be overdone.

They play the kind of relentless, driving music that requires relentless, driving vocals. Unfortunately they fell short in that department last night, but it is hard to gauge where the blame lay, because the other two bands battled the same problem.

Franz Ferdinand, a newish foursome from Scotland on tour to promote their new record, took the stage to renewed spotlight hysteria, but they chose to ride with it. They’ve been compared to all sorts of bands, from the Doors to Sparks and everything in between, so I’ll add my own take: the obvious Beatles (a four-piece band with two main and two secondary singers with vocal riffs clearly inspired by the formerly-Fab Four ), but mostly The Motors, whose twin-guitars assault in the late 70′s seemed poised to conquer the world when the band crumbled upon itself. Unfortunately again, the vocals did not sound up to the task, but in addition I have a sneaky suspicion that the band may also be lacking in the memorable-hook department.

Palomar, another Brooklyn band, with catchy, bouncy pop songs and delightful stage banter, also complained about the lights and the sound (Audience: “More vocals!” — Rachel: “You’re yelling in the wrong direction!”) but eventually got the sound reasonably well sorted out –at least from several rows away from the stage– and managed to play a bright, pleasant set with their new drummer, whom I was seeing for the first time.

Posted in About Last Night |

The Show’s the Thing

Opening night! I’m butterflies. Hot bath to relax and hydrate the throat, and off we go.

The trick is not to think of Michael Jackson (ewww) – who, at last check, hung with the Santa Barbara law for all of about two hours before he bounced on $3 million bail. And today Phil Spector was finally charged with murder. Nine months he larked around before being charged. Nine months. We oughtta be ashamed.

Time for a revolution. I’m there. Just get back to me in a few weeks, after the run of my show is over.

Posted in General Musings |

Kant, Heidegger and Derrida Walk Into A Bar

Three Philosophers is the latest strong ale from Brewery Ommegang, in Cooperstown, NY. It walked into a bar last night, into the Blind Tiger Ale House to be exact. Billed as a “quadrupel”, which is just a Flemish way of saying “quadruple”, this is a big beer (9.8% ABV), obtained by blending a small amount of Lindemans Kriek into an abbey-style strong dark ale. There is a lot there, but not nearly as much as one would have expected: the beer is robust rather than refined, with considerable winy esters and noticeable alcohol as it warms up, a character that is very reminiscent of the brewery’s flagship Ommegang. The cherry lambic contributes a fruitiness, and a woody astringency reminiscent of an oak finish that adds dryness and balances out the massive malt, but the result lacks in smoothness.

I expect that aging –probably a year or two– will add the final polish that is currently lacking, and I intend to give it a try. It should turn into a fine sipping beer, well worthy of the elegant Chimay-like goblet that it is served in.

Oh, and the three philosophers? Nobody could figure out what they were prating about, so they went away thirsty.

Posted in About Last Night |

Grace Notes

May I just say that Jack Grace sends some of the Best. Promotional. Emails. Ever. I love the notices from Dave’s True Story as well – and both Jack G. and Dave’s T.S. are exceptional New York City acts that deserve your attention – but overall, Jack ranks high indeed on the Whimsy-o-Meter™ in these parts.

From today’s, a brief mailing pitching a gig at CB’s Gallery:

It will be more fun than eating bad Chinese food, less fun than winning three million dollars, so figure some ballpark figure between those two scenarios. … If ya want off the list, just say so. I’ll do it, sometimes it takes a week cuz I’m a musician that would rather be playing my guitar, than doing some mundane data entry chores, but oh I’ll take ya off all right, I’ll take ya off but good.

If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing fun. Keep it in mind.

Posted in General Musings |

Pass the Nard . . .

Roar of the greasepaint. . . we could sure use some anointing. T minus two days in the La Mama Experimental Theatre Company first floor space. Imagine if you will that the lights haven’t really been set, most of the props have just arrived, the costumes need some tucking and tweaking, the hats are never where you think they’re going to be, the exits aren’t where we planned, tonight we have a drummer but no piano player, the wigs keep slipping off (at least mine do), and what ever happened to the dependable old days when the sturdier sex was always overflowing with bobby pins? This is the truth of the Modern Age: no one has a damn bobby pin when your wig is slipping off. Anyway, that’s us.

A long and lively rehearsal tonight. Chaos reigned and tempers muddled. I do believe if I wear the gray politician wig and say “I did not have sex with that woman” in Clintonesque tones just one more time, someone is going to thump me. I’ll probably deserve it. One way or another, on Thursday night “The Good Faith” opens, and you know? It will be a show. Life in the theatre. I’ve missed it.

Katarina our adorable stage manager is back, and she confessed that she couldn’t face a future without me in it. Or perhaps she said “Nice to see you too,” I wasn’t sure, she has a bit of an accent.

Nard? Yes, we were talking about nard just the other day. Some words you just have to flex when you find them. If I don’t say “nard,” who will? No such worries with my Clinton impression: if you Google the phrase “I did not have sex with that woman,” an astounding 12,200 results return.

Posted in About Last Night |

Civilization and its Malcolm-tents

Malcolm Holcombe - He's in a mood here too.Malcolm Holcombe is in town. Lock up your frail of heart and keep a watch on your dark of soul. What with bad back and cold weather (ow) I missed him at the Living Room on Saturday night, even though he shared a bill with dusky Dayna Kurtz, who is wonderful. Last night, out it was to see him in Williamsburg, right across Metropolitan Ave. from my lately-favored beer hang, Spuyten Duyvil. It was too auspicious to pass up.

I’d tell you where he plays out there, but I’d have to kill you. The joint is crowded enough already. Note to Aussie guy dressed up like a cowboy with spats: “You make a better door than a window, buddy” is not how we ask people if they can move aside a little. And cowboys don’t wear spats. Not up here, and not down under.

Frankly, Malcolm Holcombe is just impossible. On top of that, he’s in a mood. I say he’s impossible because he’s an unwatered God-given talent, and he just doesn’t seem to get the living-in-real-life thing. I say he’s in a mood because just a song or two into his two-set night he’s extemporizing a long and very strange story about (1) butt-roasted Brazil nuts, (2) digging for time capsules in the Brooklyn streets, and (3) tunnels and ruins and helicopters with wheels. Fasten your seatbelt.

There’s a lot to say about Malcolm, and this isn’t the time or place for most of it. Puremusic has a strong interview with Malcolm Holcombe, and he stands accurate in his own words (Kathleen Edwards, another total fave of mine, is also featured, so clearly these Puremusic folks are keeping up with their butt-roasted Brazil nuts – brain food, I gather).

Malcolm Holcombe - Yesterday's ClothesWhat I will say is that he does things with his voice and an acoustic guitar that twist the walls down and strip your heart bare. That’s the sort of thing press flacks say about every second-rate talent that truckles down the pike, and it cheapens the currency. Malcolm is the real deal: he’ll stun you and coax you, draw you close and then push you further out. He’s a prickly, twitchy, dribbly, ticcing, sometimes hostile man who is who he is and isn’t anything else. At its most self-indulgent, Holcombe’s music is stark and alluring. At its best it is simply without peer, full of power, lean and heartbreaking and downright mystical.

Tonight Malcolm is not entirely at the top of his game, but he gives us a show, rough edges and all. My favorites among his broken ballads (“Goin’ Home,” “Teachin’ Michael Anthony,” “Only for You” and “Who Carried You”) come easily and without fanfare. He roars and babbles more than usual, working out his regular demons and also, perhaps, making a bit more peace with his devilment than I am used to. If I hadn’t seen him nights past weave such stillness out of six strings and the usual complement of fingers that the entire city was breathless and halted, I think I’d think the show was great and powerful. And it is, it is.

Seeing Malcolm Holcombe at his very best, which probably runs tandem with the worst storms of his personal weather, is an experience that no one can ever forget. He makes you believe.

Posted in About Last Night |

Joey to the World

Joey PlazaI was temping at International Flavors and Fragrances in midtown years ago when a secretary poked his head in and asked one of those Magic New York Questions. “Do you want to sublet my apartment?” It was my second day on the job, I was recently back in town after a year in Dallas (oops), and I was living with my parents. It was an easy question. “Yes,” I said. “It’s on 84th Street just off West End,” he said. He told me the price. “Do you want to see it first?” “No,” I said. “I’ll pick up the keys tonight.”

For the two blocks between Broadway and Riverside Park, you see, 84th Street is also named Edgar Allan Poe Street, and it had been a passing fancy of mine for years to live on that quiet, tree-lined, not-very-affordable block. The apartment turned out to be small and cozy, a few flights up in a south-side-of-the-street brownstone. I loved it there. Edgar moved out of the hood in August of 1845 – he lived on the northwest corner of Broadway – but don’t tell the real estate people. While he was still in residence he wrote “The Raven.”

In a city so relentlessly numerical, sudden outbreaks of street names are irresistible. Up at the north tip of Manhattan lurks the brilliant intersection of Seaman & Cumming (no kidding). There’s a Love Lane not far from here in Brooklyn Heights (it’s a drab alley next to Gristedes). Stuyvesant Street in the East Village is uniquely close to true east-west, more so than nearly any other old street downtown. Named streets are nifty.

On November 30th, the City is renaming the corner of Bowery and East 2nd Street “Joey Ramone Place.” The instersection is just up the avenue block from CBGB, and just down the street from the loft that housed Joey and Dee Dee back in the day. It’s a small thing, and a good one. Now I want to live on 2nd Street. From Nevermore to Gabba Gabba Hey.

One if by Blog: If you have nothing to do until spring, The Truth Laid Bear (“A bear, the world, and a strong urge to hibernate”) is modeling an Ecosystem of lots of web logs (we are #3,632 out of 5,195, which makes us Lowly Insects rather than Wiggly Worms or Insignificant Microbes), and you can sample a thousand or two of their listed sites. The Ecosystem holds a pecking-order contest for new blogs like ours, and I think we’re going to sign up for next week’s round.

Some of the contenders in this week’s New Weblog Showcase include Ruminations on Korea, or rather ruminations on being a large white person in Korea; a meditation on David Lynch‘s plans to bring about world peace through ashrams and levitation; and a livid tirade on Senate filibusters. We’ll let you know how we do if we decide to play.

Posted in General Musings |

No Girls Allowed

Captain Jack will get you high tonightIf it weren’t for the alluring native babes who fetch up amidships during a provisions stop in South America for all of about 30 seconds’ worth of screen time, Peter Weir’s new blockbuster Master and Commander would be a mass-market picture with a full bells-and-whistles cast and no women at all.

Russell Crowe‘s man’s-man of a Capt. Jack Aubrey nearly thinks twice about one of them, so we in the audience don’t get the wrong idea about all of this manly camaraderie and the just-friends relentless testosterone sloshing around. But anyone who thinks Hollywood’s sub-rosa gay broadcasting reached its peak in the 50′s with guys named “Rock” needs to take a second look at the title of this movie, and appreciate the scenes in which Aubrey and his thoughtful surgeon Stephen Maturin (excellently realized by Paul Bettany, who manages to strain credulity and look heroic at it rather than absurd) make beautiful music together in the Captain’s aft cabin. Ahem. Yes, I know this is from the books. Someone still had a grand old time putting it up on the screen.

Bonus points to the web site for having the longest URL ever. Go ahead, try it.

This movie is sure to get backlashed hard when people tire of it, but it’s a fine rendition of a classic formula tale, the Good Boys Who Can vs. the Evil French, and it’s made with atmosphere, enthusiasm, and derring-do. No messy complexities, no flagellation (well, just the one scene), and a spare modicum of guilt (tain’t made by Americans, of course, which is probably why). Doughty bravado and clever strategy win the day, which is not to say cheating and lying and disguising a warship as a civilian mercantile vessel, well anyway, the good guys are victorious and they look good doing it. I expected a rout, and it’s fun instead. Damn the torpedoes.

Rehearsal for “The Good Faith” went swimmingly last night, as is proper after the inevitable panicky sucky one (see yesterday’s entry). We were uptempo and inspired and had fun with it all, trusting ourselves to be a cast rather than a bunch of actors. It’s a slow process, and a solid one.

Posted in About Last Night |

The Crime of the Scene

Rehearsal yesterday sucked, and I sucked mightily along with it. This is OK – the sucky rehearsal the week before the play opens is not only inevitable, it’s healthy. But I’m not used to purveying the suckage. I guess everyone gets a turn sooner or later, and last night I was top of the list.

Q: Can someone please explain to me why www.sucks.com links to the house.com real estate page?
A: Because it’s 2003.
Q: Oh of course. Silly me. What was I thinking.

My mind was elsewhere, in happier pastures, which was part of the problem. Last night at Low in DUMBO (the neighborhood, not the elephant), when I fled my suck-o-tash, there was a charming show by Ethan Lipton with his Variable Orchestra (last night he had ukelele and toy piano in the first set, and electric guitar and bass for the second; tranny rocker Lisa Jackson, whose web site is unaccountably Made in Japan and wants language packets installed, queened through a soaring acoustic entr’acte, in customary English, that was as sweetly voiced as it was generally odd).

When the festivities were over we sat with Ethan and cameragirl Heather and signed our new recording contract, which is something I’ve been looking forward to for months. Much more on the subject in days to come, but in the meantime Ethan’s web site is newly born and is, like Ethan, quietly and uniquely just so.

Posted in About Last Night |

We’ll Always Have Paris

Poor Paris Hilton. Moral of story: Do not make a video of yourself having sex unless you are cool with people seeing it. Or at least keep your degausser nearby for swift application. “OK, that was fun, zzzzzzz-app!”

But I wonder. If you had a video of your lithe impulsive 19-year-old self in flagrante, and it found its way out into the world, would that necessarily be a bad thing? Embarrassing, yes. More information than, say, your parents might need, yes. (So is an average page on an average blog, though admittedly that’s different.) And yes, the world is certainly full of creepazoids who are bound to take it the wrong way. But overall. Gain? Loss? Titillating? Gross? Guilty secret pleasure, or mortification beyond measure? Twenty years down the road, would you be happy to peer back and see yourself in a youthful carnal frolic?

Just askin’. Presumably, of course, this has absolutely nothing to do with her new reality-TV series on Fox, “The Simple Life,” which kicks off Dec. 2nd. Because that would be wrong.

Posted in General Musings |